Tooth decay is a common concern for people of all ages, especially children. Foods with high sugar content are a leading cause of this, and a staggering number of children are experiencing tooth decay as a result. While it is a prevalent issue amongst children, there are ways you lower the risk of decay by cutting back on sugar.
Why is sugar so bad for children’s teeth?
Harmful bacteria in the mouth feed off sugar and convert it to acid. This acid causes the enamel on teeth to soften and it eats away at the teeth. This harmful bacteria spreads throughout the mouth and disrupts the normal pH levels in the saliva. This can make your teeth more prone to cavities and your gums more susceptible to serious conditions such as gum disease. Proper oral care also plays a key role in minimising the risk of tooth decay so, your children should be brushing and flossing their teeth properly for 2 minutes twice daily.
How to cut back on sugar and protect your children’s teeth
Sugar is bad news for several reasons, it’s addictive, it damages teeth, and it can contribute to obesity. Being proactive about reducing the amount of sugar your children consume is an all-around beneficial decision. Here are some simple ways to do this:
Reserve sugary drinks for special occasions
When most parents think of sugary drinks, soft drinks are usually the first thing to come to mind, although a lot of parents don’t give their children soft drinks daily. They do, however, give juice to their children. It is seen as a healthier alternative compared to soft drinks and cordial. Fruit juice contains an obscene amount of sugar, some have added sugar, and others contain only a percentage of actual fruit juice. Many contain concentrates instead of pure fruit juice.
If you do, give your children juice often, try to cut back on the amount that they drink or try watering it down. Many parents think if they give their children sugar-free soft drinks they are a better alternative, while they don’t contain sugar, they are still highly acidic. This can destroy the enamel and cause decay.
Water should be your children’s primary drink of choice. It’s better for them and their teeth. Milk is another suitable option. If they won’t give up these kinds of drinks, using a straw is a good way to bypass the front of the teeth. Ensure they are rinsing their mouth after they consume these drinks.
Opt for low sugar breakfasts
Breakfast is the meal of the day that is likely to contain the most sugar. Breakfast cereals are one of the main culprits for containing high sugar.
Instead of high-sugar cereals, encourage your children to choose something healthier. Some great options are scrambled eggs, yoghurt with no added sugar, wholegrain bread or oats. Rather than having spreads such as jams or honey, you can opt for peanut butter or coconut butter. Fresh fruit is a great alternative to juice.
Offering dessert is a great incentive to get children to eat their dinner but unfortunately, most dessert options such as chocolate, ice cream and cakes contain a lot of sugar. Having dessert every night isn’t a good routine to get into because they’ll expect it every day, and this is not only bad for teeth but consuming a lot of sugar before bed can disrupt their sleep and cause unhealthy eating habits.
If your children have been brought up on dessert and you think cutting it out altogether will be a challenge, try offering sugar-free yoghurt or jelly. Other good options are sugar-free chocolate or raw nuts.
Cut back on sugar in your cooking
Nowadays, there are tonnes of great alternatives that can be used in place of sugar while still maintaining the full flavour and appearance of the recipe. Some of these are sugar-free maple syrup, pureed fruits, sugar-free chocolate, natural sweeteners, and many more.
You can start by swapping out one ingredient in a recipe for a healthier sugarless version, and once the kids have got used to the new flavour (if there is one), you can then swap out another. Tweaking all your recipes is a great way to cut back on the overall sugar content your children are consuming each day.
Check your food labels
Unbeknownst to many people, a lot of products contain sugar; even savoury ones. What some think is a healthy alternative can contain just as much sugar if not more than a non-healthy version. It’s always a good idea to check the labels of the foods the kids are eating. This way, you can make an informed choice on which foods are low in sugar and which ones aren’t and whether they are suitable for your children to eat regularly. You may be surprised at the sugar content in many children’s snacks.
Ensure their lunchbox has plenty of fresh, healthy food items
As mentioned above, many pre-packaged snacks contain high amounts of sugar, so these are best to be avoided. Opt for low-sugar alternatives or pack homemade snacks instead. Filling foods such as wholegrains breads, pastas or rice are great lunch options. Snacks such as cheese, vegetable sticks and fresh fruit will keep them nourished during the day while limiting the amount of sugar they are eating.
Have a tooth brushing routine and schedule 6 monthly checkups with the dentist
Cutting back on sugar is a great way to protect your children’s teeth from avoidable decay. Ensuring your children brush their teeth regularly and properly, can protect their teeth further. It’s a good idea to schedule your children in for regular 6 monthly check-ups with your dentist. This way they can address any potential areas of decay and existing decay in the early stages if any, and this can prevent it from worsening.
Protecting your children’s teeth from decay is a collective effort of both the parent and the child that can be achieved with some simple changes. Cutting back on the amount of sugar they eat is a great way to do this, and ensuring your children are proactive about their oral health can minimise decay from occurring. For more information, contact your local Dental Clinic Gold Coast professionals.